Getting Students To Recognize What Is Challenging

January 5th, 2012 § 0 comments

Today in preparation to correct a test I had students go through and identify which problems on a test were difficult and describe to me why they were difficult. I think this is a really important skill to grab a hold of as it makes you a better learner. If you can identify what is challenging about a problem, then you can narrow your focus on what to look at, ask questions about, or study.

The problem is I have discovered this is a skill I need to teach to my students. First, I think students are often over confident in what they find challenging. They are quick to assume they got something right – especially on multiple choice tests. Secondly, they have difficult putting into words why a problem is difficult. They can act like it should be assumed that because they are not able to do the problem then of course they cannot tell my what’s difficult about it. They equate knowing what’s difficult or challenging with knowing how to solve. This is a problem.

Students need to recognize what they know about a problem, how to try it, and then when they can’t come up with a right answer they need to recognize where the difficulty lies. What is the hurdle that they cannot get over. Even if it’s as simple as ‘I know I am solving the proportion right, so I must be setting it up wrong” or “I am unsure if this is the correct number for the denominator.”

We need to get students to question themselves – not to the point of self doubt, but to make a more complete learner.

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